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Opinion: Illegal slot machines gamble on the state’s future, but Missourians can still win the day

  

In Missouri, we strive to be honest, help others, and play fairly. These values are interwoven in our daily lives. When we see others not playing by the rules we speak up, we don’t remain silent. Therefore, it is important to call out these illegal gambling machines that have invaded our great state and demand they be removed permanently.

Recently, Missouri news channels and websites have unleashed multiple reports of illegal slot machines that are unregulated and unapproved by the MO Lottery nor the state. These machines have multiplied to the extent that they now are visible in our daily lives. Convenience stores, restaurants, gas stations—these should be comfortable places for families to come and go, not a haven for loitering metal husks to entice investments away from pockets and communities. What gives these apparatuses the right to breach our day-to-day routines?

But these illegal slots are not just an eyesore at your stop home from work. No, they are also unabashedly dishonest. Unlike regulated gambling (which is found only in casinos) these machines offer no accountability for a player’s chances of winning and no benefits to our state. As far as the Missouri government knows, these machines could be rigged to never payout: no winners but the game itself (and its deceitful owners). They embody the exact opposite of the phrase, “tried and true.” These slots are untried, untrue, and unmanaged—once they’ve taken your money, they won’t reenter it into taxes or local help, they’ll keep all of it. They won’t invest in our education systems or our veterans, they will simply continue to violate the laws of the land and export the funds out of Missouri. This is not fair play. This is not Missouri values. This is brazen contempt for the “Show Me” state.

A few days ago, Missouri lawmakers met in Jefferson City to address the almost 150 (and climbing) complaints filed concerning these illegal “video lottery terminals.” The Missouri State Highway Patrol has begun investigating these devices and spoke at this meeting, sharing that they need more resources to have any hope of clamping down on these mechanical trespassers that have scattered all across the state. With 73 current cases and more pending, they have their work cut out for them. The Missouri Gaming Association publicly stated their support of increased investigations of illegal gambling and warned lawmakers not to “reward these lawbreakers by legalizing” these unregulated machines.

While local law enforcement members have expressed concern for this growing problem in their localities, legislators are mostly silent on this issue. Despite holding a meeting at the capital, not much seems to be getting done. Conversations are long-winded and time is passing quickly. In fact, this whole conversation began with the intent of considering if these machines should continue to operate—and expand—with the state’s blessing! Slowly, we are seeing this issue presented for what it really is: a scam. But how much longer must we watch money pour into these machines and leave our state while we wait on politicians to see what is obvious? Now is the time for action, not hesitation! Now is the moment for Missouri to be the “instant winner” by saying no to illegal slots statewide.